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  • Home > James Dashner > Maze Runner Prequel > The Fever Code (Chapter 12)     
  • The Fever Code(Maze Runner Prequel #0.6)(12) by James Dashner
  • 224.10.14 | 1:48 p.m.

    Leavitt led Thomas and Teresa to the elevator and all three of them rode it to the basement level—somewhere Thomas had never been before—then escorted them down a long hallway that ended at another bank of elevators. It was an entirely different section of the complex. Thomas and Teresa didn’t say a word along the way, but they exchanged plenty of questioning looks. Finally, when the doctor pushed the call button to go down again, Thomas couldn’t hold back his questions anymore.

    “What’s this amazing thing you’re going to show us?” he asked.

    “Ah, now,” the man replied. “It’s not my place to ruin the surprise for you. You could say that’s above my pay grade.” He barked a laugh that echoed loudly. “Some very important people are going to show you the…project. I give my opinion on these matters, but I’m not involved in the actual…fulfillment.” He didn’t seem very comfortable talking about it.

    The chime of the elevator saved him from further explanation, and the doors opened.

    Four people stood inside the car, and Thomas’s breath caught in his throat. He recognized Chancellor Anderson and Dr. Paige. There were another man and woman, each of them dressed very professionally.

    “They’re all yours,” Leavitt said; then, without waiting for a response, he turned and retreated down the hallway they’d come from.

    Dr. Paige held her arm out to keep the elevator doors open. “Come on in, Thomas. Teresa. We’re really excited about what we’re going to show you today.”

    “Yes, we are,” Chancellor Anderson said. He shook Thomas’s hand as he stepped inside the car, then Teresa’s. “We’ve been waiting and waiting for the Psychs to conclude that you two were ready, and here we are.”

    “What’s going on?” Teresa asked. “Why all the mystery?”

    The elevator doors had closed, and Dr. Paige pushed a button to get them moving. A soft hum filled the air. Thomas wondered how they could be going down instead of up—the other bank of elevators had said they’d exited at the basement. He felt a small trickle of fear.

    Chancellor Anderson gave them his warmest smile. “It’s nothing you should be worried about,” he said. “We think the best way to explain what we’re planning is to show you in person. You’ll see what I’m talking about soon.”

    “But why us?” Teresa asked. “We know there are lots of other kids—we can hear them through the walls. Why are we separate? Are you going to show them what you’re showing us?”

    The woman Thomas had never seen before stepped forward. She was short, with dark hair and a pale complexion. “First, introductions, shall we? My name is Katie McVoy, and I’m an assistant vice president with special oversight of the production you’re about to see. This”—she pointed at the other man, a serious-looking man with darker skin, gray hair, and stubble on his cheeks—“is Julio Ramirez, our current chief of security.”

    As hands were shaken and smiles shared all around, Thomas wondered about the word she’d used, current. It seemed weird that she would describe the man’s job that way. Almost as if he wouldn’t be holding the position much longer.

    Ms. McVoy continued. “Regarding your questions, several of you have done leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the schooling and testing we’ve conducted here. Now, we’re as pragmatic as anyone, especially in today’s world, and we see the value in your skills and smarts. Today is a reward of sorts. You’ll be the first subjects to see this.”

    “That’s right,” Anderson said with a bright smile. “Reward is a good word for it. You two and a few others are off the charts and perfect for what we’re going to need over the next two years to finish what we’ve begun. And we should be arriving…Ah, there we go.”

    The car came to a stop, having plummeted to the Earth’s core, for all Thomas could tell. The journey, combined with everything he’d just heard, had him feeling even more uneasy than when he’d stepped into the elevator. Who were these “others” they were talking about? Of all the new things that were apparently about to be opened to him, having other kids around excited him the most by far. The constant loneliness had begun to eat away at his heart. But it also sounded too good to be true. Could he believe it?

    The doors had opened while he was lost in thought, and the others had all exited. Teresa stood across the threshold, gesturing for him to follow. She looked as if she was worried the whole thing might be cancelled if he didn’t snap out of it and get moving. Thomas felt the same way. He stepped out of the car into a large room about the size of a gym, its exposed ductwork lit with blue lights. It was empty except for the hundreds of cords and tubes waiting to be connected, countless boxes, and construction materials. One corner held what looked like an office—it was set up with multiple monitors and workstations, all lighting the space with their electric glow.

    “Our plan,” Chancellor Anderson said, “is for this to be the command center for what we’re calling the Maze Trials, as advanced a facility as any research institution has ever had. This should be finished within a couple of months, and then the two mazes themselves completed within two or three years. Maybe four.”

    He’d been looking around the room proudly, but when he turned back to face Thomas and Teresa he froze, surprised. Thomas imagined that was because he himself must look completely confused.

    Teresa asked the question for both of them. “The maze trials?”

    Chancellor Anderson opened his mouth to answer but seemed at a loss for words. Ms. McVoy came to his rescue with a polished grin.

    “Well, our esteemed chancellor has gotten a bit ahead of himself, but that’s okay. See that door over there? Behind that door is a set of stairs that will take us to a temporary observation platform. We want to show you something, then explain what it will be used for. Are you ready?”

    Thomas was. More than ready, dying of curiosity. He nodded at the same time Teresa said, “Definitely.”

    They walked as a group toward the door McVoy had indicated, the serious Ramirez taking the rear, looking around as if expecting trouble. They passed a long wall with nothing but huge power docks set far enough apart to accommodate something as big as a car.

    “What’re those for?” Thomas asked. They were halfway across the big room.

    McVoy started to answer, but the chancellor cut her off. “Let’s just get through one thing at a time,” he said kindly, and shot McVoy a look Thomas couldn’t quite make out. “We have a few things in development that we’re not quite ready to share.”

    Thomas had too many butterflies in his stomach to give the comment much thought. He figured he’d have plenty of time later, lying in his bed, to contemplate the onslaught of information being dumped on him.

    He followed Anderson through the exit and the small group climbed four sets of stairs. Then they all squeezed in together on the landing directly in front of a massively fortified metal door. McVoy tapped in a security code on a screen. There was a great hissing sound, and then, with a heavy, booming clunk, the door popped open. Anderson and McVoy pushed it open all the way and then stood aside, allowing Thomas and Teresa to go through first.

    Thomas had been high on anticipation but couldn’t imagine what to expect. And what he saw before him almost made his heart stop from the sheer shock of it. The open door had created a conduit for air escaping the vast, open space before him. He stood frozen, the breeze washing over him as he took it all in.

    He was standing on a platform facing a cavern so massive his mind could barely conceive of its size. He could tell the space had been gouged from the earth—the ceiling was uncovered, roughly cut rock dotted with enough huge, blinding lights to illuminate the entire space. That was a feat impressive on its own. But even more impressive were the steel girders that ran around the room; Thomas could only imagine they’d been put in place to reinforce the expansive ceiling, and they glittered in the reflected light of the brilliant spotlights overhead.

    And they were underground.

    It seemed impossible, yet they were actually underground. The cavern had to be at least a few miles square and as tall as a skyscraper. Building materials—wood and steel and stone—were scattered in piles across the vast floor. Far in the distance—what looked to be a mile, maybe even two—a huge wall was under construction, its skeletal frame almost reaching the ceiling.

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